Several Capitals on the spot entering playoffs

Several Capitals on the spot entering playoffs
April 12, 2011, 6:27 pm
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011,2:30 p.m.By Ryan OHalloran
Staff writer
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For just a few minutes, the decision is to ignore the Capitals philosophical shift defensively.Goals in general (power plays goals in particular), superstar players playing like it, coaching adjustments and leadership win playoff series.As the Capitals continue preparing for Wednesdays Eastern Conference quarterfinal opener against the New York Rangers, here is one facet of the Capitals game and four individuals who should be considered on the spot:1. The power playThe primary culprit for last years collapse against Montreal (1-for-33), the Capitals know they have to take care of business with the man advantage.The Capitals finished 16th this regular season on the power play (17.5 percent) had slumps of 0-for-16 (five games), 3-for-45 (10 games), 1-for-21 (nine games), 0-for-17 (five games) and 0-for-14 (six games).But the players are optimistic about the last four games (a combined 5-for-10), when Boudreau was forced because of blue-line injuries to use a five-forward unit featuring Brooks Laich on defense."Were trying to do things more simple and get more shots," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "Theyve been going in lately and hopefully it will continue in the playoffs. Its going to be a big key in the series. You have to get going. You saw what happened last year against Montreal when it didnt work." 2. Alexander SeminThe most enigmatic player on the Capitals roster because he hides behind the language barrier even though his first stint in Washington was during the 2003-04 season, Semin holds another big key to the series.He scores, the Capitals win.He stinks, the Capitals lose.Period.In his first 14 playoff games, Semin scored eight goals; in his last 14 playoff games, he has no goals after being blanked in seven-game defeats to Pittsburgh and Montreal.Semin going and he had three goals in his last four regular season games. But he needs to show it in the postseason and the best way is by shooting the bleeping puck and putting the curl-and-drag move in the garage for a little bit."He looks determined," Boudreau said. "I have no qualms that Alex wont give his best effort. He doesnt really reveal the feeling of pressure. If there is, it will make him more determined; if theres not, it will make him more relaxed and he can score a few."If the Capitals cant get out of the first round, Semin should again be at the front of the Heads Should Roll List.3. Bruce BoudreauEarly last decade, Boudreau was behind the bench for the AHL team in Manchester, N.H., that posted regular season point totals of 90, 97, 92 and 110 points only to lose in the first round of the playoffs each year.He was fired.Boudreau won a Calder Cup in Hershey but with the Capitals, he has years of 81 (in just 61 games), 108, 121 and 107 points. What Washington has to show for it is one playoff round victory and three home Game 7 losses.ESPN analyst Barry Melrose said it Wednesday and hes a close friend of Boudreaus that many will pay the consequences for a third opening-round exit.And why is this an uncomfortable question for people to askdebate? Its perfectly legitimate.For Boudreau, the key in this series is not panic with his goaltending and be unafraid to take away ice time from underperforming players (translation: shortening the bench).4. Alex OvechkinThis corner is probably in the minority thinking this is a gigantic series for the Moscow Dynamo and his early-career legacy.Just look at the opening this year for the Capitals: Home ice throughout the Eastern Conference (again), Philadelphia treading water without defenseman Chris Pronger (gave away a late conference lead), a Western favorite (Vancouver) that doesnt have a lot of postseason success and, chiefly, two of the worlds best players (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) arent in Pittsburghs lineup.(If the top four East seeds advance, its Capitals-Penguins in round 2).There arent any excuses for No. 8. No Olympic hangover. A better supporting cast. Probably in better physical condition.Ovechkin enters with 40 points in 28 postseason games and hell need to match that production again. His regular season numbers (85 points, down from his 105.8 average entering the year) were probably a result of diminished power play effectivenessWilling to sacrifice the top seed (although they still won it), Boudreau and the Capitals rested Ovechkin for three games late in the year. He came back with some snarl to his game."Hes got that look in his eyes," Boudreau said. "When he has that look, thats a good look for us."5. Jason ArnottJust call Arnott the Sergei Fedorov from the Capitals first two Southeast Division titles during this run.Since the moment hes arrived at the trade deadline from New Jersey, Arnott has held a large command in the locker room and been productive on the ice. Heck, he may have even gotten through to Semin as previously mentioned.At age 36, Arnott knows he doesnt have too many kicks left at the Stanley Cup so expect his best. He sat out six games in late March-early April and that kind of figurative oil change can only help him.The motivation for Arnott should be strong he hasnt gotten out of the second round in eight years and its been 11 years since his only Stanley Cup.If the Capitals are to make a long postseason run, theyll encounter adversity and it will be up to guys like Arnott along with Mike Knuble and Scott Hannan to direct those who may be reliving past failings.Contact OHalloran at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com